No reserves. No retreat. No regrets.

This became the missionary legacy of William Whiting Borden, known as Borden of Yale.

William Borden was born in 1887 in Chicago to the wealthy Borden family and the Borden Dairy Company. When William was a young man, his mother became a Christian and started taking William to church. He too became a Christian.

When he graduated from a private high school at the age of sixteen, his parents gave him a gift: a trip around the world in the watch care of Walter Erdman, a minister and a missionary. As they visited numerous countries, and along the way, Borden felt clearly called to become a missionary. On this trip, he saw firsthand entire people groups without a gospel witness. As a seventeen-year-old, he knew that he wanted to give his life to missions.

He entered Yale University, where he excelled in both academics and athletics. Borden clearly stood out as a student leader. Though Borden could’ve done anything with his life, he remained committed to his calling to become a missionary.

When he graduated from Yale and enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary for further training, attending from 1909 to 1912.

When he graduated in 1912, he was ordained and joined the China Inland Mission. He spent a few months in New York City in a missions internship. While there he became aware of a people group in China—ten million Muslims without a gospel witness among them. This was a very difficult people group to reach with the Gospel, as well as difficult to contact. Yet, Borden was committed to this group as his calling.

He decided that he would go to Cairo to learn Arabic so that he could be better equipped to minister to the Muslims in China. He left America in December 1912. On March 21, he was taken ill with spinal meningitis; he died nineteen days later. He never made it to China.

Note two things about his legacy. First, he left his entire fortune, well over one million dollars, to go to missionaries and teachers who were like-minded in the fundamental doctrines of the faith.

Seconds was his Bible. When he died, his Bible was returned to his parents. When they opened it, they saw on the flyleaf, handwritten by William Borden: “No reserves.” Those words were written over the date when he decided that he would not take up the family business but that he would become a missionary. At a later date, he wrote these words, “No retreat.” And then, during his illness after March 21 and shortly before his death on April 9, he wrote these words: “No regrets.”

No reserves. No retreat. No regrets. This is the life of William Borden.

adapted from

David C. Meade

David is the founder and Director of Propempo International. He has over 40 years of experience in church planting, pioneering field ministry among UPGs, and leadership both on the field and in nonprofit organizations. He is local church oriented, serving as a Missions Elder for over 20 years. He loves teaching and mentoring church leaders and missionaries preparing for service in the tough places of the world. David loves being a husband, dad and grandfather, fishing, traveling, and being omnivorous. He continues to be an avid proponent of and participant in church planting.

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